25 Fascinating Facts About Stryper
The Yellow & Black Attack Is Back!
Christian rock legends Stryper have never been afraid to take risks, and the title of their new album is no exception. In fact, it seems specifically designed to spark controversy and ruffle feathers within their fan base. God Damn Evil (which vocalist/guitarist Michael Sweet explains is "a prayer request," not blasphemy) was released on April 20th by Frontiers Records. In its first week of release, the disc ranked at #77 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart and #2 on the Christian Albums Chart.
The God Damn Evil concert tour, which is just getting underway as of this writing, will be the first to feature Stryper's new bass player, Perry Richardson (ex-Firehouse), who replaced Tim Gaines in late 2017. In honor of their long career and current success, here are 25 fascinating facts about the Christian rock pioneers.
1. Stryper began as a "secular" hard rock band called Roxx Regime, formed by guitarist/vocalist Michael Sweet and his drummer brother Robert. Inspired by bands like Van Halen, Scorpions, and Judas Priest, they took the name "Stryper" because it looked similar to the word "hyper," as a nod to their high-energy live shows.
2. The Bible verse that inspired the band's name, Isaiah 53:5, reads: "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." The verse has been part of Stryper's logo since their first EP.
3. The band's yellow-and-black color scheme is meant to resemble the eye-catching colors of "caution" signs seen on highways, as a warning against the evils of the world. Ironically, Michael Sweet has said that he's not particularly fond of the color yellow and never wears it when he's off stage.
4. The first pressing of Stryper's debut EP, The Yellow and Black Attack! was released on yellow (of course) vinyl.
5. Stryper's 1984 Christmas single, Reason For the Season, featured a metalized version of the holiday classic "Winter Wonderland" on the B-side.
6. Stryper's most successful album is still 1986's To Hell With the Devil, which earned platinum certification (1,000,000 copies sold). It was the first Christian rock album ever to achieve such massive sales numbers. The power ballad "Honestly" was the band's biggest single, peaking at #23 on the Billboard Hot 100.
7. The original album cover of To Hell With The Devil depicted the band members as Angels casting Satan down into a pit. Many Christian retail outlets refused to stock the album because of this controversial artwork, so it was changed to a plain black cover with just the band's logo and title. Copies with the original cover are now sought after collector's items.
8. A popular urban legend during the '80s claimed that Stryper were planning a concert tour with Satanic thrashers Slayer, which would have been called "The Heaven and Hell Tour." Both bands' camps dismissed the persistent rumors as nothing more than a funny idea. Slayer's Kerry King once said of the potential pairing, "Are you kidding? Our fans would kill them!"
9. Bassist Tim Gaines briefly left Stryper in 1986 and was replaced by Matt Hurich of Leatherwolf. However, Hurich was barely in the band long enough to do a photo shoot promoting To Hell With The Devil before Gaines was welcomed back to the lineup.
10. Future "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson played bass guitar on Stryper's cover of Earth, Wind and Fire's "Shining Star," which appeared on 1990's Against The Law album.
11. Robert Sweet is nicknamed "The Visual Timekeeper" due to his flashy drumming style. On stage his drum kit is usually turned sideways (rather than facing the audience) so he is visible to the crowd and isn't hidden behind walls of drums.
12. The album design for 1988's In God We Trust - which depicted the Stryper logo on a dollar bill - had to be altered due to objections from the United States Mint. The band was informed that it was illegal to "exactly reproduce" U.S. currency, so to avoid a counterfeiting charge (!) the artwork's color was changed so it would look less "green" and not as "real." The CDs were supposed to look like silver dollar coins, but this design was also scrapped.
"Peace of Mind" (2009)
13. When Michael Sweet left Stryper in 1991, Oz Fox took over lead vocals for the last few shows of the Against the Law concert tour. The three remaining band members then pursued Dale Thompson of fellow Christian rockers Bride to be their new front man, but nothing came of this idea, and eventually they split up.
14. While Stryper was on hiatus in the 1990s and early 2000s, Michael Sweet launched a successful solo career. Oz Fox and Tim Gaines played together in a Christian rock band called SinDizzy, and Tim and Robert Sweet formed the band King James with Whitecross guitarist Rex Carroll. Robert also released his own solo album in 2000 (Love Trash), and performed on albums by Final Axe, Titanic, and Blissed.
15. Stryper's 2005 comeback album, Reborn, was originally conceived as a Michael Sweet solo album. However, when Michael played demos of the material for Robert and Oz Fox, they liked it so much that they decided to turn it into a Stryper record. It was their first release of new material in almost fifteen years.
16. Similar to the controversy over the To Hell With The Devil cover in 1986, some Christian retail stores refused to stock the Reborn CD because of its cover depicting the band members covered in yellow & black paint. An alternate cover featuring the band's logo over an outstretched pair of hands was created for those stores.
17. In 2007, Michael joined classic rock legends Boston as a touring guitarist/vocalist. Stryper covered Boston's "Peace of Mind" on 2009's Murder By Pride album. He left Boston in 2011 to concentrate on Stryper and his own solo career.
18. On 2009's The Covering album, Stryper performed songs by the hard rock and metal bands that inspired them to start playing music, including Black Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell," KISS' "Shout It Out Loud," and Van Halen's "On Fire."
19. In 2010, Stryper became the first Christian metal band to perform in Indonesia, a mostly-Muslim nation, at the annual Java Rockin' Land festival. This performance was released on DVD as Live In Indonesia at Java Rockin' Land.
20. In addition to his seven studio albums as a solo artist, Michael has also released two albums with Sweet & Lynch, his side project with former Dokken guitarist George Lynch.
21. Stryper's new bassist Perry Richardson didn't join the band in time to perform on the new album, God Damn Evil. Bass tracks for the album were recorded by John O'Boyle, a member of Michael's solo band.
22. Prior to hiring Richardson, Sean McNabb of Great White and Dokken was being seriously considered for the Stryper bass position.
23. The first single from God Damn Evil, "Take It To The Cross," threw fans for a loop at first, as it features extreme "death growl" backing vocals by Matt Bachand of the thrash metal band Shadows Fall.
24. Wal-Mart refused to stock the God Damn Evil CD in its stores, for fear that its title might offend its conservative customers. However, they do offer the CD for sale on their web site.
25. Stryper's first live show with Perry Richardson took place on April 28, 2018 at the Frontiers Rock Festival in Milan, Italy. The concert was sponsored by their Italian-based record label, Frontiers Music.
That'll do it for this installment of 25 Fascinating Facts. If you haven't already heard the new Stryper album God Damn Evil, check it out and play it loud!
"God Damn Evil" (2018)
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© 2018 Keith Abt